A tourist walks into a curio shop in San Francisco's Chinatown. Looking around, he notices a life-sized bronze sculpture of a rat in a dark corner. The sculpture is so intriguing, he decides he must buy it and asks the shopkeeper the price. "Twelve dollars for the rat, sir," the shopkeeper tells him, "and $100 for the story that goes with it." "I'll take the rat," says the tourist, "but you can keep the story." The transaction completed, the tourist leaves the store with the bronze rat under his arm. As he crosses the street in front of the store, two live rats emerge from a sewer drain and fall into step behind him. Nervously looking over his shoulder, he begins to walk faster, but every time he passes another sewer drain, more rats come out and follow him. By the time he's walked two blocks, at least a hundred rats are at his heels, and people begin to point and shout. He walks even faster, and soon breaks into a trot as multitudes of rats swarm from sewers, basements, vacant lots, and abandoned cars. Thousands of rats are now at his heels, and as he sees the waterfront at the bottom of the hill, he panics and starts to run full tilt.

No matter how fast he runs, the rats keep up, squealing hideously, now not just thousands, but millions, so that by the time he comes rushing up to the water's edge a trail of rats several blocks long is behind him. Making a mighty leap, he jumps onto a light post, grasping it with one arm while he hurls the bronze rat into San Francisco Bay with the other. Clinging to the light post, he watches in amazement as the seething tide of rats surges over the breakwater into the sea, where they drown.Amazed and almost dumbstruck, he makes his way back to the curio shop. "Ah, so you've come back for the story," says the shopkeeper.

"No," says the tourist, "I was wondering if you have a bronze Democrat."

Last modified: June 14, 1996